Undated (KROC AM News) -  It  looks like it will be a wet, snowy and cold opener for Minnesota deer hunters.

Mixed precipitation is forecast for southeast Minnesota through Sunday morning.

It’s a much different story for those heading north as snow is expected to begin falling Friday and continue through Saturday morning with 2-4 inches possible in some areas.  The snow is expected to transition to rain Saturday and continue through Sunday.

It will also be a chilly opener with highs only in the 30’s across most of the state. A year ago, hunters were out in shirts as temps soared into the 60s.

The Minnesota DNR predicts 500,000 hunters will take part in this year’s firearms deer season that begins a half-hour before sunrise Saturday.

“We have a great variety of hunting opportunities and deer populations have increased in recent years,” said Steve Merchant, wildlife populations and regulations manager for the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources.

Deer numbers are up following three years of conservative harvest regulations designed to rebuild the population, coupled with three relatively mild winters. The DNR anticipates the 2017 deer harvest will be in the 200,000 range, similar to the most recent 20-year average of nearly 206,000.

The DNR collects data on deer harvest by requiring all hunters to register deer before processing, before antlers are removed and within 48 hours after taking the animal. Hunters can register deer via phone, internet or in person.

“Before each season we remind hunters to check this year’s regulations, especially details like when shooting hours are open, considering we set the clocks back when daylight saving time ends during opening weekend,” Merchant said.

Hunters in some areas will be required to have their harvested deer tested for chronic wasting disease Nov. 4 and Nov. 5. Precautionary testing will determine whether CWD may have spread from captive deer to wild deer in central and north-central Minnesota.

A reminder: testing is mandatory in southeastern Minnesota, the only location where CWD is known to be found in wild deer.

The DNR has permanently extended its phone hours so that hunters and other outdoor enthusiasts in Minnesota can call the Information Center until 8 p.m. on weekdays and from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturday. Early feedback indicates people like the convenience of being able to get help with their questions after 4:30 p.m. and on Saturdays.

The Information Center now also offers phone interpreter services that make it easy for non-English-speakers to get the information they need. They simply request an interpreter and staff create a three-way conversation with specialists who speak more than 220 languages.

To reach the Information Center, call 888-MINNDNR (888-646-6367) or send email to info.dnr@state.mn.us.

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